Intentionally Being Intentional About Intentionality
Last week my wife and I slept in separate beds for many nights. Don't worry, our marriage is fine but our children's sleeping patterns are not. As we continue the hunt for our next house the rooming situation with my parents is wearing on the kids. The frequency of Judah's night terrors has increased. Alaina's sleep has been exceptionally poor.
Things got to the point that I volunteered to sleep with Judah while Kenzie rocks it out in my place. Girls are in one room and the boys are in another. It was a desperate move, but last night was one of Judah's best nights in a while. Now we just have to work on Olivia so that Alaina can catch up.
This situation represents one of the things that parents learn early — problem-solving. Situations have to be fixed. And usually the solution involves thinking about how you are living life and making intentional decisions to change. If you are not careful, the mindless things you do can have a negative impact on your children that eventually you have to address. Proactively, everything we do as parents should serve a purpose. For us with three children ages three and under our days are regularly consumed with some form of business. Every solo activity, or family activity, must have a point. Even if that point is pleasure and leisure it should be intentional and not just a surprising outcome.
It is good to be intentional about resting. Intentional about reading. And intentional with sleep. We have to be intentional about our activities and the outcomes they will have.
Intentional With Results
A recent article about "screen addiction" reminded me of this important concept. The article details what is one of the worst declines in child development across multiple facets of life. Screens in front of children ruin them socially, educationally, and emotionally.
Not to toot a horn but our children spend very little time on electronics. Alaina and I would love alone time to get our own stuff done. Not bedroom type stuff. Like real stuff. Second job type stuff. House cleaning type stuff. There would be a very logical argument that I could be more productive, intentionally, with my time by distracting my kids. But I also have to be intentional with the outcome of my intentionality. I don't want zombie children with no imaginations who will suffer in school from attention disorder. So we stringently limit technology sessions.
Being Intentional Is Not Legalism
Far more important than technology, this emphasis on intentionality has a huge impact on Christian living. This is especially true of covenant nurture for children. We need to be intentional about church attendance, family worship, Scripture memorization, and catechism education. In my fervency for these topics, some people misunderstand my teaching as if I suggest parental perfection is necessary. In emphatically stating that we must be intentional about wrapping our lives around these events some people will recoil with "that's legalism." Or there is the ever present strawman "there is nothing I can do to ensure my child's salvation."
This statement is true enough. There is not a particular thing any parent can do. But what we can do is to trust the promises of God to our children. People do not like to read Proverbs 22:6 as a promise. So instead I would suggest Deuteronomy 30:6 or Isaiah 59:21. God has made explicit promises to covenant parents about their covenant children. It is not legalism to believe these promises. Nor is it legalism to believe God will use earthly means to bring this to fruition.
These means include the sacraments, the preaching of the word, and intentional biblical upbringing. I can hear it now, "but doesn't that mean I need to be perfect for God to use me as a parent?" In fact, it is quite the opposite. God uses fleshly, and fallen, vehicles to convey His grace. I know that we as parents will mess up. So too did God. That's why He gave us promises. So that we could attain them by faith and the faithfulness of Christ. We cannot turn parenting into a checkbox that will assure us mature Christian offspring. Yet, we can daily live as those who have faith that the Father desires to save His children (Malachi 2:15).
Justification produces fruit. Faith produces work. Belief in God's promises towards children changes our parenting. We can live and make choices intentionally driven towards that outcome. Here in my parents' house I have been poor about scheduling family worship. It weighs on me, but I feel locked into some habits that are helping our kids sleep in their new surroundings. I am far from a perfect covenant parent. Instead, I call to mind the promises of God and try to communicate them to my children faithfully. The whole time recognizing that our efforts are analogous to 1) "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24) or 2) "We have only five loaves and two fish" (Matt 14:17).